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Inside the Oscars: A ‘normal’ ceremony and an after-party with lots of ‘yes, I love jabugo ham’

This year’s event will only be significant to those who were there. Ryan Gosling’s performance of ‘I’m just Ken’ was the most memorable moment of the night

Ryan Gosling, performing 'I'm Just Ken' during the Oscars.Mike Blake (REUTERS)

Spanish filmmaker J. A. Bayona was hungry. The director, who missed out on the Oscar for Best International Feature Film, admitted this at the Governors Ball, the after-party of the Academy Awards, where the winners get their trophies engraved. The golden statuette comes straight from the factory, without any markings. To get it engraved with their name and the award, the winners have to go up a couple of escalators at Hollywood’s Dolby Theater and head to the Governors Ball.

That’s why the Oscars after-party is always filled with celebrities (at least to start with, they disappear once they have their engraved statuette). When the day starts at noon and ends around 9 p.m., and hardly any food is served, the time passes in a mix of hunger, desire, exhaustion and excitement. Bayona said that it was when his movie Society of the Snow lost out to The Zone of Interest that he really became hungry. Followed by Enzo Vogrincic (the lead actor in Society of the Snow, who was visibly excited at his first Oscars), the two looked for something to eat at the Governors Ball before heading to one of the many parties they were invited to: from the Netflix after-party to the Vanity Fair event.

Seeing the Academy Awards from inside is something else. While on screen it can be boring, tiring, with jokes that are too clumsy, being inside the Dolby Theater is another experience entirely. Every two or three awards there are breaks of between three and four minutes, where you can go out to the bars on the different floors (to either quickly return or linger for a few more award announcements), eat nuts, order a wine and chat with the winners, nominees and academics, such as Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia who, along with actress Carolina Bang, confessed that he likes to come to the Oscars every year if possible. He was wearing a pin in support of Robot Dreams, which was in the running for Best Animated Feature — a prize that went to The Boy and the Heron, even though Spider-Man was the favorite.

Mexican animator Jorge Gutiérrez, the director of The Book of Life, was walking the carpet with his mother, who was excited to be at the Oscars. “Spider-Man is going to win,” he said. But that was not the case. Even the Japanese film’s team confessed during breaks that they did not expect to win.

Kiyofumi Nakajima and Kenichi pose with their Oscar for 'The Boy and the Heron.'
Kiyofumi Nakajima and Kenichi pose with their Oscar for 'The Boy and the Heron.' Mario Anzuoni (REUTERS)

Being at the Dolby, even if it is in the penultimate row and so far away that even with binoculars, you wouldn’t be able to see the actors on stage, provides some insight into ideas and sensibilities. The Oscars had invited media outlets such as the small Indian Country Today so that Indigenous people would be present. One of their reporters, Paris Wise, a young journalist in her twenties from New Mexico, originally from the towns of Zia and Laguna, was stunned when Emma Stone and her torn Louis Vuitton dress won the Oscar for Best Actress against the impeccable Lily Gladstone. Chatting minutes later with some members of the Osage people helped to ease the pain.

A group of Native American dancers and singers from the Osage community, in their ceremonial attire, on the red carpet.
A group of Native American dancers and singers from the Osage community, in their ceremonial attire, on the red carpet.Aliah Anderson (Getty Images)

But since pain is easier to deal with on a full stomach, the Governors Ball was more straightforward. People could drink, eat (from duck baos and white chocolate ravioli; to macaroni and cheese and paella) and chat with almost anyone. It was easy to come across Annette Bening chatting among friends on a sofa; or Willem Dafoe, who was one of the last to leave.

Thor was also easy to spot: at nearly two meters tall, Chris Hemsworth stood out from the crowd. His wife, actress Elsa Pataky, who was wearing a custom-made dress by Ze García, said over wine that she had not been to the Oscars for 10 years. The last time was exactly a decade ago, when she was about to give birth to her twins. Now, settled in Australia, she was happy, excited to be walking among friends and colleagues without nervousness about the awards.

Elsa Pataky and Chris Hemsworth arrive at the 'Vanity Fair' Oscars after-party.
Elsa Pataky and Chris Hemsworth arrive at the 'Vanity Fair' Oscars after-party.Danny Moloshok (REUTERS)

Spanish and Latin American filmmakers were also present. Chilean director Maite Alberdi, wearing a beautiful fuchsia taffeta dress bought the day before in a shopping center, missed out on the Oscar for Best Documentary for Infinite Memory, just as The Mole Agent did four years ago. Third time’s the charm, her friends told her, while she smiled.

Actress Manuela Vellés, who wore a gown by Spanish designer Pronovias, was nervous to be at her first Oscars, alongside her partner, Ibón Cormenzana, the producer of Robot Dreams. It was one of the first times they had left their two small children at home and of course, it was complicated. A good part of the catering team also spoke Spanish, from the waiters to the mixologists and the ham cutters. “Jabugo ham?” asked Sean Lennon, son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. “Yes, yes, jabugo. Oh, I love it, I love it,” said the filmmaker, standing in line to grab a small plate of ham.

Sean Lennon and his partner Kemp Muhl, after trying Jabugo ham.
Sean Lennon and his partner Kemp Muhl, after trying Jabugo ham.Danny Moloshok (REUTERS)

The Oscar winners and the audience at the Dolby agreed that the ceremony had been light, with few surprises. But all the talk of the after parties was on Ryan Gosling’s performance of I‘m Just Ken, considered the highlight and the funniest moment of the night. The audience laughed at the actor’s tacky, showy spectacle. Margot Robbie looked embarrassed, Emma Stone claimed she had torn her dress during his performance; the audience gave him a standing ovation.

In what was a normal ceremony, it was the moment that will be best remembered in 2024. “But I don’t even remember what happened in 2023...,” a couple of awards veterans confessed in a chat. With no slaps and no one mistakenly announced a winner, the 2024 Oscars will only be important to those who were there. The 2025 call is now open.

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